More solo practice

The weather was mostly clear and in the 60’s. A nice day to ride and fly. The winds were mostly calm (for real this time), and even at 3000 feet they were forecast as light and variable. That’s the first time I’ve seen that. I was expecting productive flight today.

When I got to the airport, Gene was there waiting for another one of his students. We talked for a minute about the ground maneuvers and how to figure out the wind when it’s variable and what to do with regard to turns around a point (that which I had trouble with last time I tried them). He said it’s not easy. I may just have to figure it out on the fly (no pun intended).

I was in 89333 today and was looking forward to getting more comfortable with it. I headed west after a normal preflight, runup, and takeoff, to work on turns around a point. It went okay. I chose a barn next to a house in the middle of nowhere. I noticed half way around my first turn that there were two people standing outside looking up at me. I didn’t know if they were enjoying watching me fly around or if they were annoyed by the noise or nervous by my low flight. At only 600 feet above the ground, I could see it making them nervous. I decided to play it nice and bail after one turn. Since there wasn’t enough wind to make it challenging, I decided to skip more of that and work on landings.

I headed to Siler City and got in a total of 5 landings, with a combination of soft, short, and sloppy. It went pretty well, actually, but I seemed to float a lot more than usual. Maybe it’s 333, maybe it was the light and variable wind, or maybe it was my imagination. I was able to relax enough on several landings and takeoffs to look around and to the side to get an idea of what the “picture” looks like. It’s pretty much impossible to see straight ahead in a proper flare on this plane, so it’s important to get the side picture… something I hadn’t actively paid attention to until now. I’ve seen it in my peripheral vision (I guess), but couldn’t get myself to look away from straight ahead. I need to work on that more.

There was a little traffic in the pattern at Siler City, but other than me having to turn a stop and go into a touch and go so as to not hold them up, they didn’t get in my way.

After my five landings, it was time to head back to Sanford. I climbed out and headed east. Instead of cruising back, I decided to work in a couple stalls… something I haven’t done in a while. “Wow”, I thought to myself. “I’m leaning back a lot further than I remember.” I managed a couple power on and power off stalls and recovery was fine, except that 333 does not like to go from idle to full power. I don’t think I can go slow enough for it to be happy. There’s always hesitation. Once at full power, it performs well, but it would be nice if it didn’t struggle at the most important times.

At about seven miles west of Sanford, there was enough traffic to require extra careful navigation and communication. I slowed a little early to allow a Mooney to finish its crosswind and downwind turn before I entered the downwind. The Mooney flew a long downwind, so I had to extend my downwind half a mile or so to leave enough space behind it. My landing at Sanford was only so so. I probably could’ve stopped and taxied back to E, but decided to roll on out to C instead. It added another tenth to the Hobbs meter (and thus my bill), but oh well.

While taxiing back, I’m normally either really excited about how well everything went, or really disappointed at my trouble spots. Today, however, I felt indifferent. I think I’ve hit a plateau. I’m certainly not bored, and I need more practice, but I feel like I’m getting less better each time. It’s still a lot of fun, but perhaps a solo cross country would break the routine of practice area solos. Maybe next time I’ll go to Harnett County. I’m ready to go to Louisburg, or Winston-Salem, but that’ll have to wait post certification.

I still couldn’t figure out the digital navigation radio in 333, so I asked around the club about it. Another instructor that was in between students knew it well and took some time with me to explain and draw a diagram of how it functions. We don’t have any documentation on it, which is pretty sad, but now that I know, it’s pretty simple.

It felt like less, but all that took 1.5 hours, putting me at 48.4 total. I’m ready for my night cross country. Next week, I hope.